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Ben Ball News & Notes

Let’s start once again with the update on the conditions of LRMAM and KL. From the Daily News:

UCLA starting power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute did not practice Tuesday, but not because of his sprained left ankle. He was absent because of a final, but did some light shooting later in the afternoon.

However, UCLA coach Ben Howland was uncertain if Mbah a Moute will be available when the top-seeded Bruins open NCAA Tournament play Thursday against No.16 seed Mississippi Valley State in the West region in Anaheim.

"He missed practice, but he wouldn't have practiced anyway," Howland said. "If he's able to go, we'll play him on Thursday."

Mbah a Moute was injured Friday against USC in the semifinals of the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament, and did not play against Stanford.

"Luc is downstairs (in Pauley Pavilion), trying to move around a little bit," Howland said. "He's doing a little light shooting."

Howland said center Kevin Love (back strain) practiced and is expected to play Thursday.
More from Coach Howland on the same topic in What’s Bruin:
"Luc [Richard Mbah A Moute] had a final today during our practice time," Howland said, "so Luc is now downstairs trying to move around a little bit, doing a little light shooting, so I don’t have a report on him. I assume that if he’s able to do some light shooting, he’s probably not still in the walking boot, but I don’t even know. If he’s able to go, we’ll play him on Thursday.

"Kevin [Love] practiced today and seemed to be in pretty good spirits. He might have been a little sore, but he was able to practice. They’re still doing some ice for [his back], stretching and that type of thing."
If LRMAM cannot go on Thursday night, once again it will be up to JK to step up. Robert Kuwada from the OC Register has a profile on the hometown kid on how he did just that – stepping up – this past weekend at Staples to fill in for LRMAM:
"I thought James was terrific," Howland said.

Coming back in the semifinal against the Trojans, Keefe said, was not difficult given the circumstances.

"The team was relying on me, we were in the Pac-10 Tournament, and playing against 'SC, which we couldn't lose to. … That's a must-win," he said, expressing sentiments any Bruin could understand. […]

"It helped me get a little flow," he said, of the Pac-10 Tournament. "It was an opportunity for me to come in and hopefully that will carry over to the tournament, when I get my minutes, I can build on it instead of take a step down.

"It's tough to get in the flow when you're playing small portions at a time. I knew I could, it was just a matter of getting in there. This weekend, when I was able to play a lot of minutes at a time, it helped me just get more comfortable with where I was."

Nothing, Mbah a Moute said, has to change.

"He understands the game. He's such a good facilitator when we're on offense, and he's a good outside shooter, too," Mbah a Moute said. "On defense, he's done a good job learning how to defend, and I think he's come way far to being a really good defender now. And I think coach has a lot of confidence in him."
While JK got some love from his home town paper, Dohn has another profile of 'the Big Fundamental'.

Hopefully JK, KL and their team-mates will stay in the flow tomorrow night. He and his team-mates have been mentally preparing for the Delta Devils last two days. Coach Howland on the team’s defensive preparation for Thursday night’s game:
Howland also noted that after not practicing on Sunday and Monday, preparations have started for the NCAA Tournament. "We did a lot of mental stuff to prepare for Mississippi Valley State; from a defensive standpoint, we did a lot of things," he said.

"They’re primarily a man-to-man defensive team; offensively, they’ll push it, but if it’s not there, they’ll be very patient. They’ve got a good big kid inside in [Larry] Cox: He can shoot the ball around the basket; he’s 6-10, he’s long, he’s athletic. They’ve got older guys — juniors and seniors for the most part — who play major minutes. They have good guard play; they have a kid named [Carl] Lucas who’s very good; a kid named [Stanford] Speech who’s a good player. They have two little point guards, one’s 5-10 [Dwayne Harmison] and one’s 5-8 [Mike Davis]; they can both handle it. They actually have a lot of guys who can score. They can go small when they don’t have [Cox] in, and Eric Petty will move to their 5 [center]. I like the kid [Michael] Clark; he’s a good player."
Our guys will need to be more focused than ever. I am getting this vibe from Diane Pucin that she is just waiting for a UCLA stumble to pounce all over our program. Today she has an article on all the 16 seeds who have come close to beating 1 seed, with a picture of Pete Carill(who all of us are familiar with) to go along. Its almost as if Pucin is going out of her way and doing everything she can to jinx our program. Anyway, thankfully we have Coach Howland in charge, who I am sure will do everything he can to get our guys in the right frame of mind heading into tomorrow night’s game and not pay any attention to that kind of garbage coming out of local papers.

Lastly, if anyone was wondering Gus Johnson and Len Elmore will not be at Anaheim announcing our games tomorrow night. Per the bloggers at Awful Announcing, who keep track of this sort of things, Gus and Len will be in Denver, while we will get the combination of Dick Enberg/Carter Blackburn and Jay Bilas. Works for me. Who knows may be we will get to hear "Raindrops" during the half time. Just like the original glory days of UCLA basketball (some of us didn’t get to experience).